If recipes are meant to be a map, then the road to take is clearly marked here.
A16, the book, is Italian food & wine, focused on the region between Naples and Canosa in Puglia, and loosely linked by the highway A16. A16 is also the name of the restaurant in San Francisco's marina district, headed not by Italian expatriates but by San Francisco restaurant veterans steeped in the knowledge of French wine and California sensibility, and trained at California Culinary Academy, the CIA and some of the hottest, most highly respected kitchens in the San Francisco/Northern California area.
A16 will inspire greatness in the kitchen, though it may not be for the first-time cook. Part textbook, part coffee table tome and part history, A16 combines the best parts of each. The book looks rich, alluring and seductive. The texture of the paper is thick and inviting, and Ed Anderson's photography shows you the heart and soul of the food and wine. All that's missing is the smell of the Pizza Romana. A16 is beautiful food and wine presented by honest craftspeople.
Part One is steeped in the wines of the region, the varietals, the history and food pairings and recommended producers. Shelley Lindgren, trained under Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys, began with French wines and is now renowned for her commitment to the handcrafted wines of southern Italy. Follow her through the most enriching wine sections you'll come across. My suggestion: put your feet up, open a great bottle of wine, enjoy a little antipasto and start your trip through this book. You won't want the journey to end. But when it does, you will have an education beyond what you'd expect from a just a little cookery book.
The journey is personal and passionate and deep in history of the regions traversed by the twisted roads of Italy. Not many places have produced a product and been famous for it since the Sixth Century BC, as has the town of Marsala on the west coast of Sicily. Complex and sophisticated as Marsala can be, Shelley has provided a guide to the styles and character levels of its fortified wine. Along with the wines of Campania, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia; the best of Southern Italy is covered from coast to coast to coast.
Part Two is all about the food. Nate Appleman has come to a place where simple finishes are enough. As he says: "The more I cook, the more comfortable I am finishing a dish with just a spoonful of broth, a squeeze of lemon juice or a few shavings of cheese. Keeping the food simple allows each ingredient to shine." His biggest lesson? There is no masking or hiding the freshness or flavors, so choose your ingredients wisely.
The Pantry section will entice you to travel to the nearest salumeria or fromaggio and help navigate you to the highest quality products for the simplest yet most spectacular dishes, while spending wisely. The Pantry tells you what to use, but also how and why. For example, it lifts the stigma that anchovies have in the US by showing where to purchase the beautifully salt-preserved fish and how to reserve most of the one- or two-pound can that will be left over after a cooking session. The authors explore the beauty of salt, the ease of making oven-dried tomatoes and the brightness of preserved Meyer lemons, which are the little things that add flavor and depth to your food at minimal cost.
Take tripe, for instance. Even though I am comfortable with Italian cooking, Neapolitan in particular (my heritage), tripe was something I never had the courage to prepare on my own. It was better left to the ladies at St. Rocco's Church to prepare on feast day. The Trippa alla Napoletana featured in the Zuppa section was nothing short of remarkable: tender and sweet with the bright notes of white wine and tomatoes and heady with onion and garlic. It was a dish fit for the tripe devotee and a dish to make converts of everyone else.
Sweets are simple and homey, with fragrant Anise Amoretti, Honey Panna Cotta, rich chocolate gelato and semi freddo. Italy produces more styles of dessert wines than any other country, so it's fitting the dessert recipes include recommended pairings. Flavors and fragrances resonate. Baked peaches, amoretti and gorgonzola with and a cool sip of passito is a delightfully fulfilling way to end your journey.
The concept of go with what you know is clearly not lost on the staff of A16. Acclaimed Sommelier Shelley Lindgren and rising star Chef Nate Appleman play to the strengths of their staff and the craftspeople they work with to produce beautiful food. Thankfully, they have provided a road map in A16 that leads to memorable meals.